Johannes "John" Bos, a Sacramento resident who survived the Holocaust while in hiding like Anne Frank and other Jews in the Nazi-occupied Netherlands during World War II, has died at 88.
He died of pneumonia complications, said close companion Jeanne Sanders. He had no other immediate family survivors since his wife, Julia Bos, died in a car crash a few days after she was honored as a concentration camp survivor in Holocaust remembrance ceremonies at the state Capitol in 2006.
Born in 1925 in Rotterdam, Johannes Jacobus Bos was 15 when Germany invaded and began persecuting Jews in the Netherlands. In 1942, the resistance movement sent him, his Jewish mother and his Christian father to separate hiding places, where each spent the war not knowing if the others were alive.
Hidden behind a false wall in a house attic, Mr. Bos lived in constant fear of discovery. He crawled on the floor below windows to avoid passers-by outside. He could not move about or flush the toilet during the day, lest a noise be heard by visitors downstairs.
"One time the Nazis went in with bayonets and started stabbing through holes in the wall," Sanders said. "He held his breath the whole time."
Mr. Bos was briefly captured by the Germans and forced to help build giant canal barriers to block a possible Allied invasion. He was rescued by resistance fighters and endured the "hunger winter" of 1944-45, when thousands of Dutch people starved because of famine.
"They would boil leather just to try to get flavor out of it," said Sanders' son Robert.
Mr. Bos was reunited with his parents after the Holocaust, which claimed the lives of all his maternal relatives. He worked as an accountant and met Julia Blaaser, a Dutch Jew who had survived a concentration camp in Czechoslovakia. He followed her to Sacramento, where she had relatives, and they married in 1953.
Mr. Bos and his wife were revered in the Jewish community for their heroism in the Holocaust and for rebuilding their lives. They became naturalized U.S. citizens and owned a series of successful beauty parlors. They were founding members of Congregation Beth Shalom in Carmichael, where the names of their relatives who died in the Holocaust are inscribed on the Torah covers.
"He always sat in the far back when he would come to services," Rabbi Nancy Wechsler-Azen said. "He was such an unassuming person, but his presence was really strong. He sat there like he was holding the place grounded."
Mr. Bos was a lively, outgoing man who spoke five languages fluently, loved music and organized Tuesday lunches with friends.
He served as treasurer at Congregation Beth Shalom, where he endowed a choir memorial fund in honor of his mother.
He suffered lifelong respiratory problems related to being holed up in an attic during the war, friends said.
But, although he "got great glee watching endless hours of History Channel movies with the Germans being beaten," he refused to dwell on the Holocaust, Jeanne Sanders said.
"He was always looking to the future," she said. "He was the most forgiving person you could ever meet. Even in the hospital, he told me, 'Look forward, not backward.' "
Johannes "John" Bos
Born: Feb. 21, 1925
Died: March 7, 2013
Services: Celebration of life, 11 a.m. April 5 at Congregation Beth Shalom, 4746 El Camino Ave., Carmichael
Remembrances: Donations may be made to the Katrina Bos Music Fund at Congregation Beth Shalom.
Call The Bee's Robert D. Dávila, (916) 321-1077. Follow him on Twitter @bob_davila.